I’ve been on both sides of the interview panel a few times each. Whether I’m the interviewee or an interviewer, I find this section of the interview one of the most interesting and telling moments.
Once when I was on an interview panel, we were struggling to separate a couple of the candidates. It had been a long day, and it was important to get this decision right.
One of the candidates we were torn between had an OK interview, but not outstanding. They also appeared to misunderstand the pre-interview task we had set. But everyone on the panel had warmed to this person, and everyone on the panel was seriously considering them for the post.
In the end, we didn’t choose that person. With the benefit of hindsight, I feel certain that the panel had made the right decision. So why was it such a close-run thing, given that the other candidate didn’t even understand the task adequately?
I think it was because of how they responded during this section of the interview. They asked us quite personal questions about what it was like to work for this organisation, what we personally liked about our jobs, what we found challenging, and what we personally liked about the location.
Essentially, this person was massaging our egos. They were asking us about ourselves. They were building a relationship with us. It strikes me as quite a good thing that a candidate wants to build a personal connection in this way. Just as long as you, as a panellist, don’t let it blind you to a weak interview!
After reflecting on that incident, whenever I have been a candidate since then, I have made it my business to ask more personal questions like this to the panellists. It shows that you have an interest in building a relationship with your future colleagues. That may, in turn, help them warm to you.
It’s also a good sign if you have some other questions to ask. Taking a new job is a big commitment. So it would be pretty strange if you didn’t want to take the opportunity to find out more.
If you don’t have questions to ask, it might be because you’re not seriously invested in taking on the job. So I find it odd if I’m on a panel and the interviewee doesn’t have any probing questions.
This has also been an interesting barometer for myself as a candidate. If I can’t think of any questions to ask at an interview, it probably means I don’t really want the job, I don’t fully understand the job, or I’m not at the right level for the job. The jobs I’ve been offered have been the ones I had the most questions about.